Why such a problem with post-surgical breathing complications?

The non-profit and independent organization that accredits thousands of medical facilities across the United States has expressed a concern with a common post-surgical complication called respiratory distress.

The Joint Commission’s focus upon RD is both logical and timely, given the often outsized and dire consequences that result for patients who experience this serious complication.

The chief symptom associated with RD, and one which is directly implied by its name, is breathing difficulty — often so extreme that it can result in truly catastrophic outcomes, including death.

As a recent media article discussing RD notes, the malady is especially linked to a relatively brief period following completion of a surgery, when a patient can be highly vulnerable and taking powerful pain-killing drugs.

Such drugs — particularly opioid-based medicines, can be catalysts that produce depressed breathing.

And their effect can be severe when, as pointed out in the above-cited article, more than one doctor is prescribing medications to a post-surgical patient.

That problem can be a huge concern, notes a recent study of RD, with researchers pointing to multiple sources of med prescribing being common in malpractice cases alleging respiratory depression.

Taking away those multiple prescribing sources and implementing strong RD identification and monitoring tools can drive down respiratory depression-related incidents to a negligible degree, say study authors.

Coordinating med prescribing following surgery is absolutely essential, say researchers, who note that more than one-third of the malpractice actions they scrutinized featured multiple physicians prescribing opioid-based drugs.

So, too, they note, is enhanced training for nurses who work closely with post-operative patients who might reasonably be at risk of a respiratory depression episode.